Tag Archives: life

Last Cigarette Ever

I can remember my first cigarette ever, stolen from my mother’s pack of Virginia Slims 100s and enjoyed on the roof outside my teenaged window. It would mark the beginning of an era for me, one that would characterize both my adolescence and young adulthood. I can appreciate that only a handful of these cigarettes had a metaphysical impact on me rivaling the damage all of them were obviously doing to my body. But I was willing to gamble then and still believe now that the impact those important ones had on my being was stronger and more lasting than the physical harm they did to my lungs.

I’ve always been told that lungs regenerate and am learning now in school just how that occurs and it’s really quite remarkable. The skin lining the lungs has to go through four stages before the damage becomes irreversible, so as long as you don’t smoke long enough to get to that fourth stage, eventually your lungs will return to normal. It’s amazing to me that the trauma my lungs have been through can be righted with time, through no effort on my part other than simply no longer smoking. This is certainly something that physical damage has over emotional.

Emotional trauma has long been a reason to start or keep smoking. With that said, emotional trauma is often one of the things that shapes us the most. I can remember more than a few extra cigarettes smoked on nights of tears or too much drinking, but I also remember the ones that started friendships that would become life-long bonds. Smokers bond faster than non-smokers because we have this wonderfully terrible habit in common that leaves us with nothing else to do but chat. The friends I made smoking on the stoop my freshman year of college are still some of the best people I know. They are the people who know me, inside and out, the ones from whom I could hide little because we’ve shared so much.

It was a cigarette that introduced me to the love of my life and one that marked the moment when my mother passed. Both of these events impacted me in irreversible ways and I’m not sorry to have them marked in my memory with a cigarette. The first gave him and me what seemed to us infinite time to get to know one another and, for that, he remains my best friend seven years later. The latter gave me a moment of pure existence to truly appreciate the gravity of my mother’s passing and the numerous amazing, hilarious and heartbreaking moments that preceded it. Had it not been my instinct to reach for an American Spirit at that moment, I would have been robbed of something that has probably shaped me more than any life experience thus far.

That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Quitting smoking comes in second.

It has now been more than a year since my last cigarette and that era in my life has come to a close. My body is on its way to repairing itself, but thankfully the impact the cigarettes had on my existence will be mine forever. The truth is, as hard as it all was, I wouldn’t trade my smoking days for anything. They made me who I am and they were fabulous.

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W a i t i n g

This is a post I wrote weeks after graduating college and I think it applies to my current state of transition. Perhaps you will find something relatable in it, too…

Whilst I was reading Anderson’s introduction to Heidegger’s Discourse On Thinking the notion of an ontological “waiting,” struck a chord in me. Being in a bit of a personal limbo between college and whatever else life has to offer made this notion call to me loudly; too loudly to ignore. We, qua humans, wait in line, in traffic, at bus stops, to order food, to get a job, to fall in love, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Is the time between waiting for this and waiting for that spent waiting for something b i g g e r?

A friend once told me she thought it the most human thing to set a goal for oneself and to reach it. Is this time in between goal setting and goal reaching the waiting? If I set the goal for myself to make it to the gym before work and I complete that goal, am I no longer waiting? What if the next item on my agenda is the train ride to work. During this, let’s say forty five minute, train ride am I waiting to get to work? Maybe yes, maybe no. If I’m doing the crossword or reading a book on the train then I am doing and not waiting. Or am I still waiting?

Anderson makes a distinction between a shallower “waiting for” and a deeper “waiting upon.” These seemed to me to be not unlike Heidegger’s “Ontic” and “Ontological,” respectively, so is this waiting I’ve been referring to the ontological waiting?

Ontically, I am currently waiting for my laundry to finish. Ontologically, however, I am waiting for _______. It is a blank I have yet to fill in, so for now I must simply say I am still waiting. There is one waiting for which each person waits for all of his or her life, and that waiting is death. This answers the “what,” of the question, for what do I wait upon? But it’s not the whole answer because waiting consists in more than just a what. How am I waiting upon? Who am I waiting upon? When am I waiting upon? Where am I waiting upon? And most interestingly why am I waiting upon? These are the questions worth asking.

Even if I could answer some of these questions, the form of my answers would have to be mutable, for places, people, and feelings all change constantly. To say that today I am waiting happily on myself, in Boston, to finish my laundry hasn’t revealed very much of my waiting, ontologically as it were. And furthermore, these entities would each be different tomorrow because I will be different tomorrow. If even the ontic things change second to second, how am I expected to answer questions about how, when, where, who and why I am waiting in life? How is anyone expected to be able to answer these questions?

Perhaps we aren’t, and perhaps failure to realize that is why people end up at jobs and in relationships with which they are dissatisfied. Maybe I want something today that I’ll no longer want in ten years. In fact, the chances are incredibly high that things I want today I will not want in ten years, so maybe we’re asking the wrong questions of ourselves at this, such an important transitory, time in life.

If the “what” I’m waiting for is death, then what I do for a job doesn’t really make much of a difference. This question, however, is the one people rely the most heavily on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked what I plan on doing now that I’m not in school anymore. I always chuckle to myself because I’m not sure it makes any difference. I am sure, however, that how and why I do things does make a difference. For me, these a r e the questioning of waiting.

Even if I could answer these questions for myself, they would certainly do you no good, as both your questions and your answers are different from mine because your World is different from mine. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to finish this musing with glorious and grandiose answers to this ontological line of questioning but that would undermine my entire argument. How am I waiting? Why am I waiting? The questioning is the answering…

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From the Wisdom of my Teenage Heart

I wrote this poem when I was 15. I called it “My Way.” 

(I had big love for Sinatra… even then)

teenage, poem, crazy, poetry, wisdom

Me as a youth!

I am what I am; I do what I do.

I’m happy being me; I don’t want to be you.

I say what I think and I mean what I say;

I don’t let other people’s judgments get in the way.

I’ve been this way since I don’t know when.

I’m just me and I’m comfortable in my skin.

I have ambitions and dreams for life.

I know life’s hard and that’s alright.

I’ll fall in love as often as I can.

If I get hurt, I’ll just start over again.

I won’t let my pain make me too jaded to see

that, when I’m ready, love will come for me.

I’ll make my dreams come true, there is no doubt.

I’ll do what it takes, but I’ll never sell out.

And when I die, I’m going to be able to say:

I lived my life and I did it my way.

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